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[PTA] Radio Free Kroia!

Started by James_Nostack, October 28, 2005, 10:12:16 AM

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Welcome to Kroia, economic powerhouse of the Eastern European (or possibly Central Asian) nation of Navistan.  Kroia is a port city known for its shipyards.  In the Summer of 1991, unrest behind the Iron Curtain has sent the Soviet Union into a death spiral, and the chaos of that time has spread to its former satellites (possibly former republic).  And as times grow worse, the townspeople find themselves tuning into the one place where they can get honest information: Radio Free Kroia.

"Radio Free Kroia!" is a TV show about oppressive regimes, dangerous revolutions, and the people who get caught in the middle.  Basically, this is us doing fictional Serbia, with the understanding that everything is going to hell by the final episode.

We all met on-line first, and then decided to get together in person.  We had a brainstorming session two weeks ago; finished up series creation last night and managed to do a pilot.  Two of us haven't read the rules; three of us have, and two of them have played PTA before.

Jon = Producer. 

Stephanie = "Police Chief Nadja Stokelj."  Representing the State in our series.  Nadja gets things done, and keeps the city in order by any means necessary.  We've established that she was part of a unit that served in Afghanistan; the Kroians were almost entirely wiped out by incompetent officers, and only Nadja's heroism saved the survivors.  It's taught her to be creative with her orders, to achieve the greater good.  She's also had to sacrifice a lot for the System, so attempts to overthrow it may be taken personally.  She has a self-righteous Police Lieutenant who doesn't understand about grey areas.

Me = "Ludmilla Gradz."  The labor rep for the shipyard's Workers Collective.  Ludmilla is a factory worker whose husband was killed in an industrial accident a few years back.  Though she doesn't have much direct authority, the other workers look to her for guidance.  She has a teenage son, Vladic, who has been engaging in revolutionary activities.  She's worried about what's going to happen next.

Other James = "Alexander Sarnov."  I don't remember the background for this character, except that he comes across as a pretty wild-eyed revolutionary type, I'm assuming a university student.  He works for the titular Radio Free Kroia.  His issue is Humanity.

Steven = "Danijl Popovic."  Served in Nadja's unit in Afghanistan, and did terrible things which have left him disillusioned and cynical--about the System, and about himself.  He works as a "fixer" now, using connections to the black market, foreign investors, and mafia groups.  If you need something done in Kroia, Danijl is The Man.  We've established a connection to a clueless American venture capitalist who has decided that Kroia is a great place to invest.

Pausing now to do schoolwork.  I know some of the players lurk on the forge-- chime in if you want!

Jon Hastings

Let's see: in the pilot eisode we saw: unrest at the shipyards that turned into a full-scale workers' riot (thanks to the efforts of Alexander and his agents provocateurs); a confrontation between the shipyard labor rep (Ludmilla) and the police chief (Nadja); Danijl manage to keep American Businessman Floyd Roberts completely in the dark about the riot and the growing trouble in the city; Nadja get a dressing down by Navistan's Chief of Internal Security; and the revolutionary leader give Alexander his new orders which include getting ahold of some guns and killing a police officer.  Some pretty heavy stuff!

I had a great time as the Producer.  The biggest "problem" I have is that there are almost too many good ideas about where all this can go, so it will be sad to have to leave some of them on the cutting room floor.

Compared to the other PTA game I'm producing, there's a little bit more pressure here to provide verisimilitude and there's a lot more actual/potential PvP conflict.  Both of these issues make it a little trickier, but I think we'll be able to work through them and get a very satisfying pay-off. 

Play-style-wise, I'm used to using lots of author stance and director stance PLUS lots and lots of kibbitzing.  And, usually, I tend to use actor stance for the highlights/climax of a scene (for the close-ups, if you will).  So, I found myself struggling at points to keep up with the in character, actor stance improvising that ws going on.  Luckily, I warned the players before we started that I "encouraged" everyone to play NPCs if their PCs weren't present in a scene: they all did an awesome job with this (we even had fanmail awarded to players playing NPCs), and it meant less work for me--er, I mean it added to everyone's investment in the game.

I'm definitely looking forward to the next episode...


Hey Jon -

Yeah, it's weird: I've never consciously done Author Stance before, and I think the pressure of playing real time, face to face for the first time in like 15 years forced me to revert to Actor Stance for the Ludmilla scenes.

One of the things that never struck me before is how powerfully weird roleplaying is--the act itself.  Somehow doing it on-line is very different, either because it's so anonymous or perhaps because text is processed very differently than the spoken word.  I was seriously freaking out for the first couple of moments.  I felt extremely self-conscious.  It's nothing serious, just thought I'd mention it: a lot of old-timers may not remember the feeling, and  adult newcomers are probably too baffled by the rest of the hobby to notice that aspect. 

First Scene, as I recall it -- it's payday at the shipyards.... but there's no money with which to pay them!  Somewhere up the supply chain, someone has screwed up and there are no wages.  It's autumn, the winter's coming on, people are pounding on the paymaster's door--- my character Ludmilla, the worker's rep, is trying to get them to quiet down so that there won't be chaos.  Meanwhile, Other James's character, Alex, has infiltrated the crowd and tries to stir them up into marching on the Commissar's villa. 

Since Ludmilla's only "edge" is that she's a labor leader, Other James was hitting me right where Ludmilla lived, so to speak.  It was kind of disconcerting to deal with urgent PVP material in the very first few seconds of the game!  But, that's just me being rusty and not thinking on my feet.

I can't remember exactly who won the conflict, but basically Ludmilla realized that she's better off leading the workers to revolt, than losing her job and prestige, so she led them on their march to the Commissar.

So, we follow the mob up the streets of Kroia, which serves to get an establishing shot of the various houses, cafes, and other things in town.  And of course, it turns out that dastard Alex (played by Other James) has phoned the police ahead of time, so that they can intercept the mob, and no matter the outcome the confrontation will serve the Revolution's cause.  Then Alex and his buddies fire a shot into the air, and the crowd panics.

So, there's a three way conflict between me (Ludmilla), Stephanie (Nadja the police chief) and Other James (Alex the revolutionary).  Somehow all three of us end up winning, or something, and because of how we framed the stakes there ended up being a big fight.  Here, I wasn't entirely happy with the mechanics, but that's probably because it was a complicated interplay of stakes.

If Ludmilla ever figures out who Alex is, there'll be hell to pay.

So, we deal with Steven's character Danijl the fixer.  He's come to meet his American venture capitalist, Floyd Roberts, at the dismal Kroia airport on the night of the riot.  After some conversation, Danijl's car gets stopped by the police curfew, and Danijl realizes that there's a riot going on nearby--which would almost certainly give Roberts second thoughts.  There's a conflict--but Steven wins: Danijl bribes the guards, who provide a police escort to the hotel.

I played Floyd Roberts for this scene, who always makes me smile (smiling now), but I don't think I managed to really nail the character just yet.  I love the supporting cast of this show.

Aftermath of the riot.  Nadja is at the station, filing reports, making sure people are doing their jobs.  There's a midnight call from the Commissar, who is seriously pissed at this disruption and urges more repressive measures against the populace.  The Commissar alludes to special orders, which had been intercepted by Nadja's ambitious deputy, Constantine (who is possibly the head of the "secret" police).  So, we end up with a conflict between Nadja and Constantine about who's really the boss here.  Stephanie (Nadja's player) wins, but there's clearly some trouble brewing.

Other James's Alexander is receiving orders from his Revolutionary superior (who happens to be Ludmilla's brother-in-law, but whatever).  Somehow someone suggests killing a police officer, and running arms into the city. 

There was no conflict in this scene, and I kind of wish there was since it was the last one.  But I had to leave early, and so we kind of missed out on a climax for the episode.  It was too bad: Other James had used up a lot of his Traits early in the episode making trouble for me, and I wanted to return the favor while he was weary!  :)

Anyway, it was a good time.  I really like all of these characters, I hope we get to see more of them!

Joshua A.C. Newman

the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.



The Set-Up
We played at Neutral Ground, a big warehouse-like area filled with weird Pokemon/Magic/WoTC dudes.  I'm a little skeeved out by that crowd, but we had a nice little corner to ourselves.  Stephanie, who played Nadja the Police Chief, couldn't make it, which was too bad.

Ludmilla - Suffering
Danijl - Self-Worth
Alexander - Humanity
Nadja - can't remember

Scene 1: Union Politics
Last week, the naval yard workers rioted when they couldn't get paid.  Ludmilla the Worker's Rep blamed herself for a failure of leadership--and so did the other workers.  Her deputy, the earnest but kinda dimwitted Erik, has decided he wants to lead the union.  Ludmilla discovers his ambitions, and tries to talk him out of it.  "Erik, all you've got to offer is some good intentions and some slogans you're too dumb to pronounce.  It's not going to be enough."  "What makes you think that's all I've got to offer?"  "I've been your supervisor for five years."  A crowd gathers to watch the argument.

Conflict - Can Ludmilla persuade the workers to stand behind her to bargain with the leaders?  No!  The crowds think she's throwing her weight around, and think Erick might have something to offer. 

Scene 2: Greasing Palms
Last week, Danijl the Fixer brought the American industrialist Mr. Roberts into Kroia.  Now Danijl has to pay off a corrupt government minister to get permits.  The minister, who's known Danijl for a while, gives him a hard time about selling off the town to outsiders, and insults his patriotism. 

Conflict - Can Danijl justify himself as more than a lap-dog to the foreign imperialists?  No!  The minister asks for an even higher bribe, and demands that Danijl spy on Roberts's activities.

Scene 3: Life at Home
Ludmilla's gone home after a lousy work day, to discover that her teenage son Vladic has slept through the school day.  Now he insists on going out at night to 'meet with people.'  Ludmilla insists that there's a curfew, it's dangerous, and he's in trouble for missing school.  Vladic counters that the school is worthless, and he wants a better life, a life of freedom and democracy.  "All you have to show for your life is this flat, a job you hate, and memories!"  "I also have a thankless son." 

Conflict - Can Ludmilla assert her authority over Vladic?  No!  Vladic goes out to help his revolutionary buddies.

Scene 4: the Gypsy Camp
Vladic meets up with Alexander the Student Revolutionary as they go to the despised Roma shantytown outside of Kroia.  Alexander tries to compensate for Vladic's prejudice by befriending the gypsy leader, Sarmis, giving him wine and food, softening him up for creating an alliance later.

Conflict - Does Sarmis take Alexander seriously?  Yes!

Scene 5: Danijl's Place of Business the Cathedral of St. Juroslav.  Erick, the union worker, comes to Danijl looking for American cigarettes with which to bribe the naval workers.  There's lots of good fan mail here as Other James and Steven swap little code phrases, and the local priest gets some cigarettes too. 

Conflict - Who dictates terms of the bargain?  Danijl!  It's arranged that Erick gets the cigarettes.  (Jon, where does this money come from?  Who's backing Erick?)

Scene 6 - The Brotherhood of Man
Alexander is hanging out on campus, when Mirda asks him to join her Free Speech Society, which is all about peace & love & non-violence & harmony and stuff.  Alexander plays possum, giving her all the reasons to stay away from political action, and Mirda keeps justifying getting involved.  Then Constantine the Evil Cop shows up, and busts Mirda for counter-revolutionary speech, and hauls her away.

Conflict - None.  Alexander doesn't care what happens to Mirda.  (Implication: he's an utterly untrustworthy ally who would easily sacrifice Sarmis & the Roma, not to mention Vladic.)

Scene 7 - The Soapboxes
It's the Union Hall!  And Ludmilla and Erick are giving their big speeches.  Ludmilla mentions the need for democracy, criticizes the Party, points out that the workers have always been the ones to protect and ensure the prosperity of the nation, and its time for the workers to use their strength--but wisely.  The riots showed that the workers have great power, but if used stupidly it will be a disaster.

Conflict - Can Ludmilla win back the workers?  No!  Erick gets up and delivers a speech making fun of her, pointing out that she always looks to the past--always bringing up her husband's death, yadda yadda yadda!  It's time to ignite the power of the workers and savor the smell of victory!  (And everybody holds up their cigarette lighters.)

Scene 8 - Deal with the Devil
At Ludmilla's flat.  Vladic is very obviously not there--his soup's cold.  She's been crying.  Alexander knocks on the door, pretends to be a son of one of the dock workers.  Ludmilla, not realizing that Alex stirred up the riots last week, goes on about how revolutionaries are dangerous and don't truly have any sympathy with the people.  Alex suggests that Ludmilla tip off the police about Erick, and blame him for starting the riots.  (Presumably because Alex thinks Ludmilla will fail to contain the worker's resentment, which will boil over into revolution.)

Conflicts - Does Ludmilla resist the temptation to sell out Erik?  No!  Does Alex inadvertently betray his revolutionary status to Ludmilla?  Yes! 

This session was kind of rocky.  Other James and I had some mutual misunderstandings about Issues, pacing, and general tone of the show.  Hopefully we'll be able to talk things through.

Also, I generally felt mildly distressed with most of the developments happening to Ludmilla.  It eventually dawned on me what the problem was--I've created a pretty reactive character, trapped in hopeless situation.  The other characters all have a funky little escapist touch: the chief of the repressive police state, the heartless revolutionary, the sly and tricky fixer.  Ludmilla's just a working mom.  She also has a lot more at stake emotionally in the fate of Kroia than any of the other characters.  So, not only does she have to lose everything, but she loses it earlier than the others too.


QuoteAlso, I generally felt mildly distressed with most of the developments happening to Ludmilla.  It eventually dawned on me what the problem was--I've created a pretty reactive character, trapped in hopeless situation.  The other characters all have a funky little escapist touch: the chief of the repressive police state, the heartless revolutionary, the sly and tricky fixer.  Ludmilla's just a working mom.  She also has a lot more at stake emotionally in the fate of Kroia than any of the other characters.  So, not only does she have to lose everything, but she loses it earlier than the others too.

Seriously? I think Ludmilla is the most compelling character, and so hyper-appropriate to the general gist of the show that I'm having a hard time seeing the problem.

Are you thinking that maybe going over to a more pro-active way of doing things is going to be the focus of Ludmilla's spotlight episode?
Robert Earley-Clark

currently developing:The Village Game:Family storytelling with toys


Yeah, I know - but, like, this is the thing -- everybody involved in PTA has to do three things simultaneously:

1.  Be the actor, portraying your character.
2.  Be the screenwriter, coming up with plot developments for the rest of the show.
3.  Be the audience, savoring what's happening.

The trick is, if this show is a tragedy (which it is in my opinion, though I'm not entirely sure if the other players agree), then in my function as an actor I have to create a sympathetic character, but to create a good tragedy the screenwriter aspect has to coldbloodly rip her to shreds if that's what the story calls for.  All for the sake of the audience (me and the other players).

Like, maybe it's fun to watch from one remove--but it's unsettling when you're the one actually doing it.  On balance I'm enjoying the game, but it's very intense, and not entirely what I expected.  (I mean, I'm the one who pushed for a more tragic show, and the one who wanted to play this tragic character--but I had no clue what that would feel like.)

Jon Hastings

Hi James,

I think the game's rocky moments, our frustration, and your specific problems re: Ludmilla are all related to a couple of things we aren't doing consistently enough:

We need to focus more on driving the scenes towards conflicts and, more specifically, towards conflicts over the characters' issues.  Yes, it is possible to have scenes without conflicts and it is possible to have conflicts that do not directly relate to your character's issue.  However, because we are new to each other as a group, more-or-less new to the game, and working with very challenging material in terms of the show's premise, we absolutely need the focus of having conflicts over issues.

I think it's a mistake to request scenes in Episode 2 just because you want to set up something that "has to happen" in order for the game to be at a specific place by Episode 4.    As players, you guys are in danger of self-railroading, because you all, to a certain extent, are basing your decisions on where you want the game to be a few episodes down the road, instead of just focusing on bringing your issue into play in the scene at hand.

If you focus more on "what THIS scene, right here, says about Ludmilla's issue", the coldblooded feeling should disappear, because you don't have to worry about having to rip Ludmilla to shreds in the future.

And we need to have a better sense that losing conflicts is fun.  Or, at least, losing conflicts shouldn't be something to get distressed about.  In this vein, the players shouldn't be trying to avoid conflicts or get defensive when faced with one.  Losing conflicts lead to unexpected, unplanned twists that, IME, makes the episode juicier.

We came up with a pretty tricky show idea, and as you mentioned, we've had some communication problems.  But I think a lot of our problems would be solved (or at least solvable) if we keep things simple: drive scenes towards conflicts over issues, and make sure failing at a conflict is just as interesting as succeeding at it.  This is pretty much basic PTA 101 stuff, and  we aren't doing justice to it.


Darren Hill

Quote from: James_Nostack on December 02, 2005, 03:18:59 PM
Ludmilla - Suffering
Also, I generally felt mildly distressed with most of the developments happening to Ludmilla.  It eventually dawned on me what the problem was--I've created a pretty reactive character, trapped in hopeless situation.  The other characters all have a funky little escapist touch: the chief of the repressive police state, the heartless revolutionary, the sly and tricky fixer.  Ludmilla's just a working mom.  She also has a lot more at stake emotionally in the fate of Kroia than any of the other characters.  So, not only does she have to lose everything, but she loses it earlier than the others too.

Like Comrade Bob, I was surprised to hear of your frustration since Ludmilla's story is pretty gripping - I was thinking, what a powerful spotlight episode this could be building towards. (Especially since the Spotlight episode gives you the chance to change the Issue - is this when Ludmilla will take control of her destiny?)
Are you feeling frustrated because you keep losing all those conflicts? If that's the case, I'd recommend working harder to define what happens if you fail, before you draw and reveal the cards. So that if (when!) you fail, you're excited about that result as well.
In the game I ran, my players found it hard to get out of Actor Stance, and I think that caused some frustrations - they weren't able to help contribute to the creation of some stakes, because they were so caught up in the traditional: "I want to win!" mentality. The players who had most fun seemed to be the ones that got into Author Stance when defining the conflict (that's probably the only time it is essential) - being willing to come up with horrible things that they would enjoy seeing, rather than leaving the failure to be defined by someone else.